Tell us something about yourself, how did you get started, do you consider yourself a crafter, maker, artist…
My ETSY shop opened in March of this year with the advent of COVID. I am a nurse/crafter/quilter and I knew in March that medical supplies were going to be a real issue. I wanted to help the community and my healthcare peers across the nation who were having mask access issues. I researched the making of many different masks and came up with my own original design that gave the most protection and would stay in place. From the very beginning, I offered masks with double layer cotton, filter pockets, nose piece, and filter. I decided that I would add a matching scrub hat with a mask option for additional protection and cuteness!
How did you discover Etsy? Did you have any previous experience in selling handmade products? Why did you start selling online?
I have been an ETSY customer for many years. I love the variety of handmade items and originality. I had no experience in selling handmade crafts but was actually going to start selling my craft items at fairs this year. The cancellation of most craft shows postponed that goal. The pandemic has been the motivating factor for selling my handiwork online.
What products do you sell, what type of materials are used in your creations, how do you design your products, what makes your products stand out?
I sell masks for every occasion, scrub hat and mask combinations, and am getting ready in the near future to offer other craft items and quilts. My masks stand out from the competition because they stay in place, are adjustable for every face, have always had nose pieces, filter pockets, and a filter which many masks still do not offer. I also have brand new BioSmart material available for masks which offers even more protection. So many masks I see out and about do not stay in place and do not cover the nose which is critical.
How was your experience in learning to craft, are you self-taught or did you have a mentor, how long did it take for you to be satisfied with your creations?
I learned how to embroidery from my Grandmother when I was 8 years old. She hand-stamped pictures on cotton for me which I embroidered and she quilted for me in pink and blue. Little did I know that this was the baby quilt that would be for my first child many years later! I learned how to sew in Home Economics class in Junior High, and have always sewn craft and clothing items since. A great friend of mine was the inspiration for getting into quilting and taught me so much.
What was your original goal when you opened up an Etsy shop? What impacted your decision to start selling online? Do you consider online selling as a side-job, full-time job, or extra income to pay for your hobby?
I would like nothing better than to sew and craft full-time but it does not pay the bills yet! My original motive to sell online was to help my fellow healthcare workers have access to a mask that would actually protect them during the severe shortages that were present back when COVID-19 first reared its ugly head. I donated approximately 300 masks to my hospital and 65 masks to our local Police and Fire department that my husband serves on.
Did you have any fears or reservations before opening up your Etsy shop? Were you worried about profitability or product competitiveness? What are some concerns and questions you had before you got started? How did you overcome them?
I started making masks at the very beginning of the pandemic and did not worry much about competition back then. Of course today the competition has increased greatly. I still feel that my masks are far superior to other cloth masks and I believe in my product totally. I wear my mask almost every day and know from experience how they perform. As the sales of my masks peaked, I became concerned if I could keep up with the Etsy demand. I hired some part-time help, my husband! He had just retired from the Fire Department so I taught him how to serge, sew, cut fabric, and post the created product to my ETSY store. He turned out to be a darn good employee, I think I will keep him! LOL.
How long did it take for you to get your first sale? Did you ever think you would make a lot of sales in the first year? What was the goal you were hoping for? How many sales an average you get per week?
I actually made my first sales the week that I opened my ETSY store. I believe my first order was for the mask pattern. I actually could not believe how quickly I was selling all of my items. I don’t think my family thought any of this would really happen!
Do you have a job outside Etsy? If not, are you able to commit full-time to online selling? How does your typical day look like? How do you manage time?
My fulltime job outside of ETSY is in Healthcare, I am an RN at a hospital and have plans to retire in the upcoming year. I will be devoting more time to increasing my ETSY store with fun new items. I work a 12-hour shift and have an hour and a half commute each way. When I get home from work I check my ETSY site, fulfill any orders, and have my husband put out the mail orders in the morning.
How does your manufacturing process look like for e.g. your best selling product? Do you create products ahead of the orders? Do you customize your products, if so how? What are the tools that you are using in the manufacturing process?
When I started making masks in March I needed help to donate my first 400 masks so I taught my husband how to sew and iron correctly, and how to use my machines for some of the steps. I have several wonderful sewing machines, an embroidery machine, and a serger that I use. My husband actually does almost all of the serging for me still. I can customize my masks by reducing the size of children. I also customize products by offering material designs that were requested ie. Royals and Chief’s fabric for my Kansas City clients.
What is the biggest impact on the profitability of your shop? How expensive are the materials you use? How do you price your products?
Material is not cheap and is the biggest expense. I pay retail prices like everyone else so my profit margin is small. My goal from the beginning was to help in the pandemic, definitely not a get rich scheme! I offer free shipping because my cost for shipping is lower than what the consumer would pay. I increased the price of my mask to cover the shipping that I pay which helps the buyer.
What inspires you when you’re creating? How do you get ideas for new products? What are some methods or tools you use to get creative?
I research new materials daily and also look for new projects constantly. A lot of projects end up being too time-intensive for one person and those get crossed off the list. I have to be able to charge for at least a portion of my time. The ” Purple Thang ” is a great tool for stringing masks.
Do you ship your product internationally? How do you handle postage pricing? What is the average time it takes from the order to the delivery? Do you use free shipping? If so, why? How do you package your products?
No, I have not shipped anything internationally as of yet. This could be in the future when I offer different items. I use free shipping because it is much more convenient and saves my clients money. I pride myself on getting out an order the same day as it is placed or the next morning.
Are you worried about competitors? Does it impact your business in any way? If there are a lot of similar products, how do you make your own stand out?
Competition always affects your business and the mask business is no different. Especially when big businesses get into action like what has been done with masks. They have the ability to mass-produce and mass advertise which I do not. Each mask of mine is lovingly made! I strongly believe that if you did a blind study, my mask would come out on top for comfort, fit, looks, and safety.
How do you deal with disputes or bad ratings/feedback? How do you manage presale and post-sale communication and customer satisfaction?
All my reviews so far have been great. My friend and family reviews are also excellent! I do get questions about my products and pattern and answer them all very promptly. I have strived to always get my orders out the same day or the next morning. I have accomplished that about 98 percent of the time.
Has selling on Etsy changed your life in any way? If so, how? Did you ever think you would get this far with your shop? Have you ever been stressed about dealing with customers and manufacturing products? How did you deal with that?
I love having my own ETSY shop! When there is a lull in sales, I use that time to catch up on personal sewing and trying out new ideas for my shop. Until I got my ETSY shop I never imagined my masks would be helping so many peers across the nation. I am never stressed when dealing with my customers. I love them and they love my products. I do get stressed and frustrated when I have a difficult time obtaining out of stock material.
How important is social media for your shop? What are some common tactics you use to promote your products? Do you spend money on ads outside of Etsy? How do you generate excitement/hype around your products?
I am not huge on social media which would help if I was. I have ETSY do my advertising for me which has helped my shop sales. I have many repeat customers and I delight in giving them some extra product or discount to show my appreciation for their loyalty
What are some things you don’t like about Etsy? If you could talk to the CEO of Etsy what recommendations would you tell him to improve sellers and customer satisfaction?
When I first started my shop in March, I felt like I got a lot of exposure at first and then that decreased significantly after several months. That is when I had to buy some advertising. The search engine for ETSY frequently does not lead to the correct shopping. When someone asks me about how to get to my shop I tell them to put in the actual name because a search of key terms frequently does not lead to my shop. I have also had this problem personally when I am trying to locate specific items.
What are some things you did to set your shop for success on Etsy? What is one lesson you learned the hard way?
I bought several different head models before I ever advertised. I feel that masks should not be displayed on a person because the consumer can then wonder if the item they received was on someone else first! All head mannequins are not created equal. Make sure your model has realistic ears so your mask straps will go over them.
What piece of advice would you give to new or established sellers or those considering selling on Etsy? How can they avoid beginner mistakes?
Boy, I am so new that I don’t think I am the expert on any of this yet! Offer free shipping, the price the consumer sees is the price they will pay (excluding their tax). Be prepared to ramp up production of your inventory when sales surge.
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I dislike that my shop site only allows 10 photos for my inventory.